A Timeless 5 Step Sales Philosophy From Mark Twain

There are and will always be steps in the sales process. They actually have changed very little since 1865, when Mark Twain created what might be one of the first sales training manuals “The Successful Sales Agent.”  He was not only an author but a very savvy businessman who understood the power and importance of personal sales and training.  He created a sales training program for all of his, “outside sellers”, who sold his books to the public.

Mark Twain quote

No email, no social media, no video, no blogs just people taking products and services directly to the people.

Personal branding at it’s best and most basic.

Mark Twain understood and appreciated the value of a sales process 147 years ago.  He sold thousands of copies of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, through “subscription agents”, salespeople who would pre-sell his books door-to-door using sample pages of the books.

Here are the five progressive steps from The Successful Sales Agent to what he called “Canvassing” taken in the following natural order:

  • First: Thorough preparation
  • Second: Securing influence
  • Third: Gaining a hearing
  • Fourth: Creating a desire
  • Fifth: Taking the order

*From Hamlin Hill, Mark Twain and Elisha Bliss (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1964)

He opens the manual with this statement:

“You must be interested yourself, or you cannot interest others; and the way for you to become interested, is to KNOW your book THOROUGHLY.”

Is this sales 101 or what?

“Know your product, be a user of it and be passionate about it’s features benefits and results.”

Please take a few minutes to read the “Successful Sales Agent Manuscript” written in 1865 by Mark Twain and marvel at how the fundamentals of salesmanship that we follow today have not changed at all. Fast forward to today and add in some fancy technology, uber cool new media, a ton more competition and being in a completely different time in history and those five progressive sales steps from 1865 are still the steps we take to deliver the products and services we market and sell today.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you have a passion for sales?
  • Do you believe in your product?
  • Are you building relationships?
  • Are you developing testimonials and referrals?
  • Are you presenting yourself professionally?

We can learn a lot from Mark Twain about sales:

  • Be prepared
  • Know your customer
  • Follow common sense tactical fundamentals
  • Practice, practice, practice

Mark Twain Quote Photo via Shutterstock

Deborah Shane Deborah Shane has been recognized as a Top 100 Small Business Champion and Top 50 SMB Influencer (Dunn and Bradstreet 2015). She is a career transition author, personal branding and social media specialist. Deborah's book "Career Transition: Make the Shift" is available through all major book sellers.